By Thomas Sellers Jr.
When the clock struck 4 p.m. Saturday, the quartet of Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebel seniors were primed to make history.
The Lady Rebel Volleyball program has never reached Nashville for the Division II-A State Tournament. The only thing standing in the way of the four seniors and the rest of the Lady Rebels were the Goodpasture Christian School Lady Cougars out of Nashville.
The Sub-State showdown in the TRA Gymnasium went to four sets but it was the visiting Goodpasture team heading back home to schedule games for the State Tournament winning 24-26, 25-14, 25-16 and 25-22.
“Losing doesn’t hurt as much than the tears in that locker room,” TRA Head Coach Amy Weatherington said. “Oh my God, how heartbroken they are. They’ve come from a program that doesn’t have a tradition of being great. But this year they were great. Our motto all season was ‘All Heart.’”
The motto came to fruition led by seniors Brooklyn Rose, Jordan Allen, Mary Catherine Turner and Sarah Allyn Thornell. It was their leadership that guided TRA to a first set victory.
Goodpasture jumped ahead 8-3 in the early moments. The Lady Rebels were sparked by a pair of underclassmen Kayla Clement and Lydia Harvey with scoring plays.
“The Test” Thornell made a highlight-worthy spike to make the tally 9-8 in favor of the Lady Cougars. Moments later TRA took the lead at 12-10 when Sophie Roane scored on a play.
The first set went through multiple ties with the tally 20-20. The Lady Rebels grabbed the lead and was on the brink of victory after a Thornell tip.
Goodpasture managed to deadlock the first set one more time at 24-24. TRA overcame the odds and won the opening set courtesy of a Thornell tip 26-24.
The Lady Cougars made adjustments and took the next two sets 25-14 and 25-16. On the verge of elimination, TRA led by coaches Weatherington and Assistant Coach Wendy Darden took an early lead.
Goodpasture rallied to transform the fourth set into a seesaw affair.
The Lady Cougars were paced by players like Brie Owens, Elisabeth Paradise, Macy Bastson, Kaden Sanders and Miriam Fletcher.
Meanwhile TRA kept fighting to keep its season alive with big plays from Thornell, Allen, Rose, Turner and Harvey.
“They truly in that last set played with their whole heart,” Weatherington said. “And I can’t ask from them any more than that. Those seniors that we have are one in a million, all four of them. They just believed we could make history this year. The fact we didn’t is hurting them and the fact that they are now done with TRA Volleyball is setting in.”
When the fourth set was tied various times including 18-18 it appeared TRA’s season could extend to a fifth set or possibly Nashville.
Paradise stepped up her play with a couple of kills to give Goodpasture a 23-20 advantage. Thornell wasn’t ready to go down with a one last punch. She scored on a hit and that sparked the Lady Rebels to make the score 23-22.
But that was TRA’s last gasp and Goodpasture scored the final two points of the evening to win and advance. The Lady Cougars managed to eliminate the 2020 West Region Champion Lady Rebels.
In the past six years the TRA Volleyball program has played in multiple Sub-State games and sent several players to the college level under then head coach Darden and now Weatherington.
Weatherington said her four seniors this season elevated the TRA program and were the pillars Lady Rebel Volleyball needed facing the challenges of a pandemic season.
“I will tell them to always be proud of what they accomplished,” she said. “We accomplished so much this year in mental toughness and winning games we shouldn’t have won. We were complete underdogs. And this team and those seniors just built up the whole team. They’re just such a special group of girls.
“They are pillars,” Weatherington concluded. “And the only loses we had this year were to teams in a higher classification and that says a lot. And we beat some of those teams. And they should be so honors and proud to be a part of this season, this team and this program. I’m so proud of those girls and honored to be their coach.”